5 Ways in which David Bowie was a brilliant Role Model
March 2, 2016
Like many fans I was devastated by the sudden and unexpected death of David Bowie in January. Without doubt he was one of the best artists (in many senses of the word) of our time, being so much more than just a singer – a writer, actor, artist, fashion icon, innovator.
There are many memories of Bowie and he has left a huge legacy of work for us to enjoy. I have also been thinking, however, about the example he set and the legacy he left as a person. Yes, he had his difficult times and his drug dependency days, but he came through all of that a stronger person, and had much stability and personal happiness in his later life. So how can Bowie be a role model for us?
In his early career, he had many setbacks and despite his obvious musical talent it took him a long time to have a successful hit single. His first single, ‘Liza Jane’ was released in 1964, but, despite releasing several singles, it was not until 1969 that he had a top 5 hit single with ‘Space Oddity’. After that, again despite releasing several singles, it was 1972 before he had another top 5 hit with ‘The Jean Genie’. So he showed great persistence and huge commitment to his vision by carrying on and not giving up. In these days of reality TV and quick fame many of us would do well to remember that hard work and persistence, despite setbacks, can be one of the best ways to build confidence and set the foundation for achieving our dreams.
Bowie was an innovator. He did not find a successful musical formula and stick to it as many other musicians do, he constantly moved forward with his work from the rock of ‘Ziggy Stardust’ to the soul of ‘Young Americans’, the funk of ‘Let’s Dance’ finally to the jazz of ‘Blackstar’ and so much more in between. He was also an actor, a painter, a fashion icon. He continually moved forward following his interests and passions and he was never complacent in his work. In 1988 Bowie set up one of the first dial up ISP’s, Bowienet, before many people had even heard of the internet. How many of us can say we have had the confidence to move forward, embracing change in our work, continually expanding and developing themselves in the way that he did?
Bowie was also classically brilliant at ‘being himself’ despite how others might judge him, unwittingly breaking down huge prejudices as he did so. Who can forget his comment in 1972 to Melody Maker ‘I am gay and always have been’? Today it’s hard to comprehend how radical that was, but homosexuality had been illegal just 5 years previously and that single statement was a massive boost for the gay community, moving gay rights forward in leaps and bounds. How many of us are really brave enough to ‘be ourselves’ in that way?
Despite his celebrity status Bowie never forgot his humble roots, as a working class lad coming from South London. He turned down both a CBE and a knighthood, saying they were not things that interested him. He was a rich man, but was non-materialistic, his family were everything to him and in his later years he always put them first.
In the 1970’s Bowie was a fantastic single Dad at a time when this was unusual and it was not trendy to be a hands-on Dad. Angie Bowie claims that she had to let David have custody of Zowie (who changed his name to Duncan Jones as soon as he was old enough to realise what his parents had called him), because they were so close that she could not part them. Whatever the reason Duncan says that David was a fantastic father, despite the challenges his fame brought, who regularly took him to work with him, i.e. the recording studio, and gave him lots of time and freedom to find his career path, which he did in style, becoming a great film director. They remained close until the end.
So, in my opinion, through his resilience, innovation, being true to himself, being down-to-earth and non-materialistic and an excellent single father David Bowie showed he was a true inspiration and brilliant role model of our times, oh and he was a pretty unique and hugely gifted musician and artist too.